Southern Baptist Convention Founded
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Founder
William Bullein Johnson
Time Period
5/8/1845  - 5/12/1845
Description
The marker of early 19th century Baptists was their drive to participate in domestic and foreign missionary work. However, the missions agencies were split over the question of allowing slave-holders to be missionaries. The debate came to a head in November 1844 when a group of Alabama Baptists wrote to the Triennial Convention demanding that the agency give "avowal that slaveholders are eligible, and entitled, equally with non-slaveholders" to missionary funds. The leadership of the Triennial Convention quickly responded, saying they could not "imply approbation of slavery."

In May, 1845, some 293 representatives of Baptist missionary agencies, churches, and seminaries met in Augusta, Georgia to organize the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). William Bullein Johnson, a former president of the Triennial Convention and influential church planter from South Carolina, drafted the SBC constitution and gave an important public address at the first convention justifying the separation from the older missions agencies.
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Narrative
The marker of early 19th century Baptists was their drive to participate in domestic and foreign missionary work, quickly founding the Triennial Convention (1814) and the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (1832) as Baptist belief expanded during the Second Great Awakening.

Baptist churches were only loosely denominational during this period and cooperated with each other through a mix of local associations, state conventions, and missionary agencies. During the 1840s, the missions agencies were split over the question of allowing slave-holders to be missionaries. The debate came to a head in November 1844, when a group of Alabama Baptists wrote to the Triennial Convention demanding that the agency give "avowal that slaveholders are eligible, and entitled, equally with non-slaveholders" to missionary funds. The leadership of the Triennial Convention quickly responded, saying they could not "imply approbation of slavery."

The following May, some 293 representatives of Baptist missionary agencies, churches, and seminaries met in Augusta, Georgia to organize the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The central figure in the new denomination was William Bullein Johnson, a former president of the Triennial Convention and an influential church planter from South Carolina. Johnson drafted the SBC constitution and gave an important public address at the first convention justifying the separation from the older missions agencies. The disagreement over slave-holding had disrupted effective evangelizing, giving rise to the SBC, which would organize "a plan for eliciting, combining and directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for the propagation of the gospel."

The "Southern" in Southern Baptist Convention was more than simply a description of where the overwhelming majority of SBC churches were located. The SBC remained closely tied to white Southern cultural, racial, and political identity until the mid-20th century. At the SBC's annual convention in 1861, the denomination pledged its support to the Confederacy, substituting the words "Southern States of North America" for "United States" in its constitution. As historian Walter Shurden notes, "In the 19th century, Baptists of the South became Southern Baptists."

Following World War II, the SBC ceased to be an exclusively regional denomination, rapidly expanding into the North and West. At its formation in 1845, the SBC claimed approximately 350,000 members in 4,100 churches. By 2009, the SBC had swelled to more than 16 million members in 45,000 churches, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States by far.
Religious Groups
Baptist Family: Other ARDA Links

Movements
Abolitionism
Photographs

William Bullein Johnson portrait- Wikimedia Commons

Basil Manly Sr portrait- Internet Archive- from Dr Basil Manly, the Founder of the Alabama Historical Society by Thomas McAdory Owen

First Baptist Church, Augusta, Georgia, where the Southern Baptist Convention was organized- Hathi Trust- from Giant in the Land by Hortense Woodson

Jimmy Carter at the Southern Baptist Convention- National Archives and Records Administration.gif
Book/Journal Source(s)
Hill, Samuel S., 1984. Encyclopedia of Religion in the South. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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